Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 1002, added October 21, 2006

Traps the Sly Fox With a Phonograph

From New York World, in Phonogram 4 (February 1902), 61-2.

            Elmer Skillings, champion fox trapper of Bucksport, Maine, who became a wonder in that line so suddenly that there has always been great curiosity at his success, has finally told the secret by which he lured the sly foxes into his traps.

            Mr. Skillings, who is a farmer in a sparsely settled district, purchased a Phonograph and some records, for his own amusement and to entertain his fellow farmers at the Grange meetings.  He has an ingenious mind, which suggested an attempt to get on record the noises of the poultry yard, that of the pullet who has just laid an egg, the crowing of a cock, the quacking of ducks and the discordant note of the guinea fowl.  He bought some blank records and secured all the novel results he wanted.

            Then another idea came to him.  He exchanged his instrument for a much finer and larger one, and after a number of trials obtained a fine record of the clucking of a mother hen and the peeping of her brood of chickens.

            Then he went into the woods, dug a large hole, partially filling it with brush and arranged the Phonograph in the hole, so that by means of a long spring and a self-returning mechanism of his own invention the record would run continuously for nearly half an hour.  A powerful resonator made the sounds nearly as distinct as the original.  The apparatus was completed with an alarm clock arrangement, so that the instrument could be set in operation automatically at any hour desired.  The effect was startling, when suddenly there would be heard, apparently from a heap of brushwood, the excited clucking of a mother hen and the answering peeps of her brood of chickens.

            Mr. Skillings surrounded the place with fox traps and set the machine to begin operations several hours after sunset.  It worked to perfection.  The first time it was tried two foxes were trapped.  From all appearances they were rushing in upon the supposed defenceless brood, forgetting their usual cunning.  The scheme worked again and again until nearly all the foxes in the vicinity had fallen victim to Skillings’ genius.